I think it would be hard to pick. My favorite pencil and the best in the world, the Aker-Kocher softest pencil is the best I have used.
When and who was the first person you wanted to write about, but didn’t?
Before I wrote any books, I wanted to write about the life of a composer, so a composer of one of the world’s most famous works. But I ended up writing about the life of my parents first, because I just had no experience with parents.
My sister had no experience with parents. That was another surprise. And the only thing I knew about children wasn’t as true today as it would have been in a time when you’d say a family’s life was in the news: I’d just know I came from a house that, like all houses of my day, was a little weird and different. It made me a little depressed, which isn’t bad.
So I did know only about children, because I didn’t think I could do it. I did know, though, that I knew the difference between a life of people and a life of events. You can learn to love your parents in your later years as the years go on, but you really can’t love your parents as much as you loved them. The love of a parent is so deep and enduring, that you can’t love them in spite of everything you’ve learned. That’s what I learned as I got older — that.
Your first book, about the history of the Japanese samurai, was published after you’d graduated and returned to a life of writing fiction. You’ve said that one of the reasons you decided to write fiction was that the stories you were writing were not autobiographical and were more about fantasy and magic. What changed about your approach to writing about the Samurai?
They were people who were very real, but more complex than people I’d met or stories I’d heard, more about fantasy than about the real world around me — my own world.
But in retrospect, I realize that writing fiction wasn’t my main ambition, anyway. The main thing I was doing was writing, because that was more interesting: I liked writing stuff about my own life. It was just another outlet. And later on, I realized that it was also more important to write stories about people who did things that were also important to people.
Were these stories based on your own life? And what did the authors you
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